Olympic Sliding Spree

The 2022 Olympic Winter Games are wrapping up as I write this, and I’ve noticed both serious and casual viewers like to comment about the current medal count (I’ll restrain from my rant on that, because it’s not a humor bit) and mock certain events.

Now, although I once penned and performed a clever, silly song entitled “Curling is for Sissies,” I really have no problem with curling as an athletic event, or that athletes ski with guns (although note that there are no running-and-shooting events in the summer games) or that ice dance is athletically “figure skating lite” but makes up the difference with steamy passion. No, all these athletes work hard to be the best at whatever they do, however diverse or specific it may be. I don’t have a problem with the diversity, but rather with similarity: excessively resemblant variations across one discipline, such as diving versus synchronized diving in the summer games, or that top snowboarders compete in slopestyle, big air, and half pipe, throwing basically the same impossibly awesome tricks in all three. A top skier can qualify for skiing versions of those same three events, and an individual in these winter games can now slide down a channel of ice three different ways: skeleton, single luge, or the newly added monobob.

Allow me to elaborate on the single person sliding situation. For starters, “monobob,” (besides being variation number three on a pill-shaped sled and giving the Germans something else to engineer) is a wimpy name for a fast, dangerous sport. It sounds as if a slew of competitors attempt to bite and secure one of those elusive apples, all working the same trough, and only those that do so without contracting a virus make the final.

Then we have the single luge, and granted, it’s more dangerously exposed than the monobob and boasts more history in the games, yet I have a problem with the propulsion aspect. For starters, isn’t paddling one’s arms backward frantically from a seated position a lot like a child’s activity? GO! Scoot HARDER! While it is impressive after the slider lays back and starts rocketing downhill, the part that determines most of the speed looks like something a duck would do in a panic. Furthermore, this only works on hard, smooth ice because of multiple terrifying spikes protruding from the fingertips of luger’s gloves, a modification that I trust we won’t start giving children with their Flexible Flyer toboggans at Christmas.

I’d be willing to drop the monobob and single luge and just stick with the skeleton. Cooler on all levels. It has the naturally athletic start of a full sprint, the addition of a flying lunge, dangerous exposure, and aggressive head-first action (rather than bobsled’s upright steering, too blasé, or luge’s neck-cricking peek position, too tense). If you could have an action poster of your Olympic effort on only one of the three sliding events, the skeleton shot would easily look most renegade. And besides appearances, “skeleton” sounds rogue. I expect that there are skull tats on some of these athletes. Imagine sighting one on a skeleton medaller’s neck as she tears across the finish line, tosses her sled, and rips off her helmet—now who wants to talk “monobob”?

If the IOC intends to keep adding these variations, they could represent even more skill sets and body types. Very large and rounded persons could tumble terrifyingly down the channel in the “power ball” event. Or technical engineering could be taken to another level of elegance if we provided the athlete only a super-slick body suit, waxed it up just so, and after a full-on sprint he or she would simply throw down and ride it out. The men, though, might wish to flip over onto their backs.

Finally, since engineering and technology is a huge component of sliding sports, may I also suggest that the IOC allows countries to compete strictly on that level, steering the sled remotely, video-game style. Would the Germans take this, or South Korea? We may never know. Or even more purely, each country could simply release their sled at the top, soap-box derby style, and see whose is fastest among those that happen to hold the run. Spectators beware!

Copyright © 2022 Richard Berndt – All Rights Reserved.

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